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Premier Travel of Cambridge and the Chrishall buses

by | Aug 3, 2015 | At Work, Village Centre | 6 comments

bus depot chrishall premier travel of cambridge weedens
chrishall-crawley-end-snow-1963

Click on this picture and in the larger version you will be able to see the top of a double-decker bus just appearing over the snow as it comes down Crawley End towards the green. Winter 1963.

Where Loveday Close now stands in the middle of the village was for many years a much more industrial looking area.  For it was here that first Weeden’s, then Premier Travel of Cambridge and finally Funston’s buses transported village inhabitants to the local market towns of Saffron Walden and Royston, and at times much further afield.  In the winter time the buses struggled up the Chrishall hills to bring their travellers home and in the summer they took them off for day trips to the sea.  Here is a flavour of the Chrishall bus story…

Chrishall Bus Depot

premier travel of cambridge bookChrishall Bus Depot was operated by Weeden’s Bus Company and later, by Premier Travel of Cambridge. The following is based on “Premier Travel – A History” by Paul Carter (pub. Capital Transport 1995; secondhand copies occasionally available from Amazon among other booksellers. )

F E Weeden began operations soon after the First World War, originally operating from Heydon under the banner “Heydon & District” and a chocolate and maroon livery.

Premier Travel operated in a blue livery and began life as the brainchild of 10 undergraduates at Cambridge University in the early 1930s and as a diversion from their studies. It flourished after The Second World War, partly through acquisition of other companies. Discussions with Weedon had commenced before the war and resumed in 1945 when a takeover was agreed in the May. (The tickets on the right are over 60 years old!). As well as the maintenance depot – suitable sites for such facilities were scarce and expensive in Cambridge – Premier acquired some 7 vehicles and of course the valuable licences to operate routes between Chrishall and Bishop’s Stortford, Saffron Walden , Royston and Cambridge via Sawston. In summer, the Saffron Walden service went on to Clacton! There was also a London express service (via Clavering) to London Finsbury park.

The takeover of Drayton’s Motor Services of Barley was agreed in September 1947. This company operated in a dark blue and cream livery and offered similar services to Weeden’s – including another London express. This latter service started from Chrishall and went via Barley and Barkway whereas the Weeden service via Clavering started from Heydon – with the result that both services passed each other on Friday mornings going in opposite directions! Private car ownership during the 1950s was still the exception and the acquisition of Draytons established Premier as the main operator on the Royston – Chrishall- Saffron Walden axis. The Drayton family continued to own the Barley premises which they still operate as a motor garage and filling station serving the local community.

Chrishall was effectively a travel hub for these routes and after 1974 also provided maintenance facilities but its remote location had its disadvantges: in the severe winter of 1962 -63 no less than 16 buses had to be abandoned on one single day after getting stuck in snow drifts up to 6ft deep and passengers had to be led to safety on foot.  (See one who did make it home above.)

chrishall buses The distinctive Ribble “White Ladies” shown left were Leyland buses built to a semi-luxury standard (compared to the average double-decker) and were a big improvement on standard Guys. They were introduced secondhand in 1962 and lasted for over 10 years. They originally had art-deco style streamlining embellishment between decks but some of this was removed to permit the advertising panels shown. A similar and even more luxurious body was found on three Daimlers named County of Cambridge, County of West Suffolk and County of Essex and the combined fleet helped to establish Premier as a leading local operator.

chrishall buses White LadyThe photo of the White Lady top left is taken from the same view as the modern housing on the General Information page, and that of the Morris Dancers. The centre photo is also taken at Premier’s Chrishall Bus Depot and shows a bus ready to depart for Fowlmere while the one bottom left is of the same bus about to depart from Cambridge for Royston via Chrishall and Barley.

(Click on the images to enlarge – these photos came courtesy of Busman’s web site – now apparently defunct)


 

An amazing collection of Premier Travel bus photographs can be seen on the Flickr photograph website here.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnmightycat/5726361700/in/pool-premiertravelcambridge/ – Chrishall bus

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr-bg/6878051501/in/pool-premiertravelcambridge/ – older Chrishall bus!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr-bg/6720939031/in/pool-premiertravelcambridge/ – Drayton and Weedon buses pre Premier


 

chrishall bus depot mid 1960s

This aerial photograph from the mid 1960s not only shows a great view of the bus garage in the centre of the village, but also a good view of the brown bungalow next to the road which was then the village shop and post office being run by Mr and Mrs Oliver.

Finally two pictures of Funston’s Buses, based here after Premier Travel:

Funstons buses chrishall

with thanks to Bruce Drury for this photograph.

funstons buses pre 1989

6 Comments

  1. Ray Filler

    In the early 1970,s I worked wih Premier Travel, based at Haverhill depot. I drove various buses/coaches on Service 59 Haverhill to Audley End rail station, service 44 to Cambridge and express service Clacton to Blackpool. I knew Mr Lainson quite well, he put me forward for a Member of the Chartered Institute of Transport.
    I was headhunted by Don’s of Dunmow becoming a tours driver from Essex and Cambridge to various parts of the Scottish Highlands.
    I am now retired living in Somerset.

    Reply
    • Rosemarie Gant

      That’s lovely Ray – thank you for getting in touch. Oliver’s shop must have been next door to the Chrishall bus depot at that time. I know at one point the bus drivers would go in there for their breaks. Was it like that when you were there or was that room on the left of the shop turned into the Post Office by then?

      Reply
  2. Mac Law

    My family (Law family) were very much involved with the Weedon and Premier Travel companies in the village. My father joined Freddie Weedon in 1937 as a driver, travelling wherever he was sent, including all the local services, seaside trips and private hires.

    During the war years, he was doing troop transporting all over the UK, rarely coming home for weeks. After the war when Premier Travel took over, the rest of the Law family joined including my mother Edna as a conductress, also my Auntie Mary, her husband Sid, with his brother Sam. Sid was a mechanic and Sam a driver on local services.

    As my parents lived in Heydon, I as a child spent a great deal of my life in Chrishall and most days would visit Doug Oliver’s shop next door to the garage, to buy sweets and a bottle of corona.

    Reply
  3. Mac Law

    My family (Law family) were heavily involved with Weedon’s and Premier Travel at Chrishall garage. My father joined Freddy Weedon in 1937 driving his buses on local services, trips to the seaside and London, plus all over the UK. During the war years he was involved with troop transportation countrywide and was away from home for many months at a time.
    At the end of the war when Premier Travel took over he was joined by the rest of the Law family including my mother Edna, my Aunt Mary and her husband Sid who was a mechanic and his brother Sam who did local work, mainly on the double deckers. Edna and Mary were conductresses.
    I, as a young lad, spent much of my younger years in Chrishall and most days bought refreshments from Doug Oliver’s shop next to the garage. I could always be found jumping on and off the buses whilst they were parked in the garage yard.

    Reply
    • Rosemarie Gant

      These are lovely memories – thank you so much for adding these.

      Reply
  4. Terry Knights

    I joined Premier Travel as Frank Grice’s assistant in about 1960. My wage was £3 wp. I had various tasks, hiring relief coaches. We were always under pressure as the firm was financing it’s other branches, airport and travel agency. I knew Mac Law well, Chuffer and many others. I left in 1967, joining the police where I did 30 yrs. l now live in Stamford, having of course retired. I will never forget those times.

    Reply

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